Gina Gwenffrewi (PhD in Transgender Studies at Edinburgh University, 2016-2020)

Thesis title: Transgender Gaze, Neoliberal Haze: representations of trans women in the Americas through the prism of neoliberal society


Prior to coming to the University of Edinburgh in 2015, my career was in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). During my fifteen year career, I taught in a Realschule in Germany (2001), and in language schools in St Petersburg, Russia (2001-2002), in China (2002-2003), in Poland (2003-2007), and then with the British Council first as teacher and teacher-trainer in Cairo, Egypt (2007-2008), then as academic manager in Senegal (2008-2010) and Saudi Arabia (2011-2015). As well as having a CELTA-equivalent and DELTA, I have an MA in TESOL from Sheffield Hallam University. 

I come from Holywell in Wales, and attended the Welsh-language high school Ysgol Glanclwyd. I studied my first degree, joint honours History and English Literature at Cardiff University (1994-1997), before completing an MA in English Literature at Bangor University (1997-1999).


Currently in the fourth year of my PhD in Transgender Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

MSc in Creative Writing (distinction) at the University of Edinburgh (2015-2016).

MA in TESOL from Sheffield Hallam University (2011-2013). 

MA in English Literature from Bangor University (1997-1999).

BA Joint honours in English Literature and History from Cardiff University (1994-1997).

Research summary

The study of global transgender female identities and their representation in the arts and media. This includes a particular focus on trans female identities excluded from mainstream trans narratives in the Global North, and their relationship with structural inequalities connected to socio-economics, nationality, and race and ethnicity. Methodologically, I draw on Lacanian/post-Lacanian thinkers, from Jacques Lacan to Julia Kristeva, Jacqueline Rose, and Judith Butler. However, my work currently is hugely informed by and indebted to perspectives gained from the scenes of trans artists of colour especially in North America, including persectives on race and socio-economics from writers/artists such as Jamie Berrout, Janet Mock, Fabian Romero, Reina Gossett, CeCe McDonald, and generally the output of Oakland-based editor and artist Nia King.  Increasingly, and complementary to my focus on race and socio-economics, my work is influenced by the insights on intersections of trans/queer experience with race and class of Joao Gabriell, Sara Ahmed, Michelle Davies, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and specifically in relation to global economics and their impact on trans communities, of William Davies and Naomi Klein.

Current research interests

The representation of trans women in literature and cinema in the Americas and in Africa, with a particular focus on the works of Mexican trans writer and editor Jamie Berrout. Methodologically, my research also currently looks at perspectives which erase, exclude or dismiss trans identity with accusations or inferences of trans identity as a neoliberal / advanced capitalist construction, and/or as contributing to the fragmentation of progressive political movements.

Past research interests

My research in representations of trans female identities began with a focus on white trans biographies and memoirs in the Anglophone Global North, with a particular focus on biographies by Lili Elbe (1931), Juliet Jacques (2015), Laura Jane Grace (2017) and Sarah McBride (2018), as well as white, middle-class queer narratives belonging to writers such as Maggie Nelson (2015).

Knowledge exchange

Currently I'm working as lead-organizer on the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International (28-29 May 2019), which will be held at the University of Edinburgh. The conference represents the highpoint of my work here as a doctoral researcher, being an outstanding opportunity for me to work with academics and non-academics who focus on trans identity in relation to topics in my research, including intersectional structural inequalities. These include issues of disability, race, health, and socio-economics. With generous funding from various departments and schools at the University of Edinburgh, as well as SGSAH and SGSSS, we have been able to invite speakers from several countries and with particular intersectional focuses on trans identity. My own role involves fund-raising, communications, and logistics, working with the finance team of the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures to manage budget and spending, and developing networks with the School of Law, Information Services, genderED, and the University's LGBTQ+ networks, as well as co-working with the seven-person organizing committee to shape the conference programme.

Project activity

I am lead-organizer of the conference Transgender: Intersectional/International, to be held at the University of Edinburgh on 28-29 May 2019. The conference organizing committee comprises vast experience and insight, with Matthew Waites, Kumud Rana and Sylvia Morgan from the Sociology School of University of Glasgow, Matson Lawrence from the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde, Carolynn Gray of the School of Business and Law at the University of West Scotland, and Dominique Green from the School of Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh. The conference will include eight multidisciplinary panels, focusing on (1) Law, (2) Social Policy, (3) Health and Wellbeing, and (4) the Arts, the media and digital humanities. Our approximately 35 speakers are a mixture of academic and non-academic, coming from countries as diverse as Uganda, South Africa, India, Senegal, Nepal, Mexico, the U.S.A., Canada, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Germany, Finland, and the countries of the British Isles. Several speakers are world-famous authorities on trans identity, including author and Professor of Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University Stephen Whittle and Executive Director of GATE Mauro Cabral Grinspan, whose work includes being a signatory of the Yogyakarta Principles. The two-day conference will also include a keynote speech by actress Renata Carvalho, on life as a trans artist in Brazil under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. Following the conference, we intend to publish the conference papers as part of a book.

Current project grants

SGSAH, SGSSS, the University of Edinburgh Student Experience (alumni) grant, the Regular Grant from the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Academic Development, as well as funding from the following parts of the University of Edinburgh: the Law School, the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the School of Social Sciences, Information Services, genderED, and the Staff Pride Network.